Friday, February 5, 2010

Total Recall

Trouble is brewing with Toyota, as a rash of various problems have surfaced in 2.3 million of their vehicles. At first, they had an issue with what was announced as a moving car mat problem, which they thought was to blame for gas pedals sticking - which lead to some fatal crashes. The company advised owners to remove the mats & they would be replaced. A few months later, it was announced it was actually a mechanical malfunction in the accelerator pedal itself.
8 different models were to be recalled, Toyota announced on Tuesday that they would stop selling 8 Toyota brand models until they had a proper fix in place for problems involving their accelerator pedal system. According to news reports, Toyota was legally required by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to stop selling the cars.

Meanwhile.... the fix is this driving maneuver:

"The company's advice for consumers who own these vehicles is the following:

If you need to stop immediately, the vehicle can be controlled by stepping on the brake pedal with both feet using firm and steady pressure. Do not pump the brake pedal as it will deplete the vacuum utilized for the power brake assist. Shift the transmission gear selector to the Neutral (N) position and use the brakes to make a controlled stop at the side of the road and turn off the engine. If unable to put the vehicle in Neutral, turn the engine OFF. This will not cause loss of steering or braking control, but the power assist to these systems will be lost."

Problem is- the problem does not end there.

They now may have a different break software issue (potentially) in the Prius & maybe Lexus vehicles as well.

For me, it's personal. I am driving a Matrix that was made in the US & needs the accelerator pedal fix. Oh yes, it does scare the hell out of me to think of the potential wild ride.

I am trying to remain calm, and reread those instructions on what to do in the event of a problem. They say it is a rare occurrence -- but not rare enough if it is the vehile you are driving that suddenly accelerates as if it were possessed.

Toyota thinks they have a fix for the problem-- a postage stamp size piece of steel- but the part is not yet approved or ready. If 57% of the vehicles they sell can not be sold as a result of this issue, I suspect they will be coming up with a fix pretty darned quick.

In the meantime-- if you see a newer Toyota on the freeway.... give them defensible space, please. You might be saving your own life!

For the record it's not just Toyota--

On Thursday, Ford announced that it was changing the software in the braking system for its Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids to correct an occasional glitch in the old software. Ford said no injuries had been reported involving the problem.

The Fusion/Milan's issue seemed less serious than that of the Prius, said David Champion, the head of auto testing at Consumer Reports.

Honda FIT vehicles have a little problem of potentially bursting into flames. 640.000 FIT vehicles are being recalled.

The problem involves the driver's master power-window switch. It can overheat and cause fire when it makes contact with "excessive" liquid, Honda says, like a heavy rain, for example. Seven such incidents have been confirmed in the US, none causing human harm, says Honda spokeswoman Christina Ra. A person was killed in South Africa in 2009 in what Honda suspects was a problem with the switch, Ms. Ra said, although the fire damage to the car was too great to ascertain the root cause of the problem.

I think Blogger Nonnie had an excellent idea-- we create a dedicated freeway lane for cars with pending recalls!


Christopher said...

Before we bought our SUV, I drove a tiny Toyota Tercel for 12 years and never had a problem. It was a great little car and all I ever did was change the oil every 5,000 miles and one break pad replacement.

I wonder if the problem Toys are the cars and trucks made in Japan or the US? I haven't read anything about this.

I heard on Diane Rehm's program the other day how many of the new cars -- including Toyota's have an electronic food feed.

When you press the gas pedal to accelerate, the carburetor doesn't open. Instead, the pedal sends an electronic signal to the car's computer which in turn, sends a signal to the carburetor to open. The electronic system that controls this function isn't regulated by the US government.

Technology is great and we depend on it daily but there needs to be standards for consumer protection.

Fran said...

Christopher~ From what I understand, the vehicles w the sticking accelerator issue are the models made in the US.

Of course, this is a liability hot potato... the pedal manufacturer claims it is not faulty, Toyota wants to blame them, but it may be just what you mentioned a design flaw:

Toyota claims it has developed a fix to the gas pedal of its vehicles that will stop sudden acceleration. However, the manufacturer of the pedal denies it was defectively made. Of the 2,000 complaints of sudden acceleration, just 5% blamed a sticking gas pedal. Nor did any of the government investigations into sudden-acceleration problems in Toyota vehicles identify a sticking pedal as a potential cause.

Instead, the problem may be caused by a defect in the vehicles' electronic throttles. As noted in the Los Angeles Times investigative report,

"The electronic throttle system uses sensors, microprocessors and electric motors, rather than a traditional link such as a steel cable, to connect the driver's foot to the engine.

In recent interviews, two former NHTSA administrators, Ricardo Martinez and Joan Claybrook, have said they believe that some kind of electronic glitch may be causing the Toyota problems. Similar conclusions are being drawn by independent automotive safety experts, forensic mechanics and automotive electronics researchers, as well as many consumers.

Whatever it is, I hope they clearly identify the issue & come up with a swift fix, so I am not driving & finding myself scoping out optimal ditches along the freeway to use as emergency escape routes.

It has actually changed how I drive on the Freeway and I am only doing required driving, avoiding using the vehicle for any long, casual drives.

Fran said...

Here is a link to a History of top 10 recalls....

nonnie9999 said...

the recall is world-wide, so i don't think the problem(s) can be blamed on anyone in the u.s. i think toyota is trying to blame the pedal manufacturer to try to take some of the heat off toyota's bigwigs. the bottom line is that toyota handled this very stupidly, and they'll be feeling the repercussions for a long time.

Anonymous said...

I heard about the pedal recall I had no idea it affected my NON toyota car good thing I found more info here
searched for my make, model, year and found my car had been recalled so look out! it could save a life maybe yours

don't understand how serious or what the car pedal recall is about?
just watch this video at the end it also shows how to stop a out of control car very useful

Fran said...

Hey Nonnie~ It seems like Toyota keeps changing it's story every day.

From the Toyota web site, it says the accelerator issue is NOT on cars w VIN numbers starting with the letter "J", which means made in Japan.

Toyota's Official web site says "Toyota will cooperate fully with NHTSA’s investigation."

Like they have a choice!

But this massive debacle aside.... like Christopher said-- that is a typical Toyota experience/reputation... they make basic solid cars, that last 2x a long as US made cars, usually w minimal maintenance.
Which is why I bought my car-- a little reliable workhorse of a vehicle.

Maybe they should have stuck with the old reliable format.... getting fancy w computerized parts seems to be screwing things up.

I hope the fix they have will be the end of it.

Dada said...

Fran: I can only try to imagine your angst when out driving, always looking for a soft ditch as possible crash cushion. I am so sorry.

As with Christopher's Tercel, the second car of our marriage was a '77 Corolla (rated @ 45mpg). We drove it 12 years w/o any major repair or maintenance expense. (Finally gave it to a nephew upon his graduation from HS -- he piled it up within a few weeks.)

But I am moved to do my share to help once fabled Toyota quality try to recover from his massive crisis: having a small more portable set now (for tvl, etc.) Mrs. Dada and I have decided to donate to Toyota the 102 tiles from our old Scrabble game. It's the least we can do as lovers of this (former?) marquee of quality.

Fran said...

Interesting, Dada, that Toyota shined when they kept it simple & those vehicles ran for a good long time & keep their resale value.

Corolla is the worldwide most popular vehicle- and the Matrix is a different hatchback /wagon body design on a Corolla frame/body & engine.

Clearly, when it comes to vehicle designs & parts- shit happens, and no auto maker makes a conscious decision, resulting in $2 billion dollar "mistake", plus wrongful death lawsuits.

I just hope it is not pandora's box-- first they think it is a floor mat, then a pedal mechanism, then maybe something more serious like the computerized link up???

I'm sure heads are rolling behind the scenes @ Toyota.

Still GM & Ford have had a whole host of other recalls over the years, so Toyota has not yet crested their dubious honor.

Even in recent history-- the Ford Focus (fuck us?) is the most recalled vehicle EVER.

Fran said...

Just called the dealer & they have the part NOW..... I'm going in!

Fran said...

I just happened to call the dealer to get an update about the recall part (saw an article in the local newspaper). They said they have it now & best to come in ASAP. Yea baby! I zipped on over there (well not TOO fast... the accelerator pedal was not fixed yet!). The place was busier than I've ever seen it.... Camry owners getting new floor mats & pedal fixes & lots of recall folks.
I did not get any notice from Toyota in writing, and the dealer never called me-- I called them &
lucked out. Plus weekends are the best/easiest time for me to get this done anyway.
Funny-- the husband asked me what I might like for Valentines day... & I said- this is it!
I want to not drive in a death trap!

So I m smiling again when I drive my Toyota, rather than have that nervous, white knuckle driving thing going on.

Still "the fix" came awful fast, so I hope there is no issue having to be recalled w further problems.

Oh as an aside. They had FOX news on the waiting room TV.
I immediately commandeered the remote & changed to a different channel.

Watching claymation penguins on the NICK station was a serious upgrade!

Let's hope this is the end of the story & not to be continued.